Q & A: From India To IBM

An Electronic Fireside Chat with Dr. Rao Tummala, founding director of Microsystems Packaging Research Center and father of System-On-Packaging.

An Electronic Fireside Chat with Dr. Rao Tummala, founding director of Microsystems Packaging Research CenterTummala and father of System-On-Packaging.

Dr. Rao R. Tummala is the founding director of an NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC) called the Microsystems Packaging Research Center (PRC), pioneering the second law of electronics by his System-On-Package (SOP) vision.

PD&D Design Daily: How did you get your start in the industry?

Dr. Rao R. Tummala, Founding Director, Microsystems Packaging Research Center: I received my education in India, where I was born, and received two degrees: one in math and science, and the other in engineering.

I came to America and received a PhD at the University of Illinois and was soon hired by IBM. I started out as an engineer, and within three years I became an advisory engineer; soon after that a senior engineer. I worked there for 25 years, and acquired the highest technical position that they have, which is the IBM fellow.

After IBM, I joined the academic world at Georgia Tech and started the Microsystems Packaging Research Center (PRC), which is the number one center in the world, dedicated to SOP and other emerging microsystems packaging technologies.

PD&D: Who were some of your major role models growing up?

Tummala: My parents. They were determined to see me get the best education that was possible, and worked night and day to make sure I had the right teachers. They also advised me that I should get an industrial education due to the various opportunities it presented.

I also had a teacher in college back in India, Fassad Rahl, who took a special interest in me and helped guide me to a career choice.

When I started at IBM, I had several role models, but it basically was the natural process of career development.

PD&D: What were some of the major challenges that you encountered during the design process of the first plasma display?

Tummala: The process taught me that the role of an engineer is someone who has a great idea or great strategic need. Looking at himself as a great innovator, he takes ideas through an automotive process so it is no longer just an idea, but something real and useful to society.

Working by myself was one of the major challenges during this process. I had a team of 700 people who I needed to explain the idea to in a way they could understand so they could help me manufacture it.

Once I got funding, I also needed to have time management so I could produce the product on the required deadline that was set for me.

There are also technical problems you can run into, along with people problems that can create a variety of smaller challenges, but you do what you can to take the process to the next step and make it happen.

PD&D: How would you explain Low-Temperature, Co-Fired Ceramic (LTCC) technology, and how it has contributed to microelectronics packaging?

Tummala: When I was hired to IBM, I was employed to work as part of team that developed ceramic electronic sub-shape technology. I was responsible for solving problems and to take ideas from concept to development and manufacturing.

During this process, I learned a lot about high-temperature ceramics, and I asked myself ‘Where could this technology go ten years down the road?’ I had an idea for a new technology for low-temperature ceramics, which is now used and available around the world, and beneficial for RF and high-frequency applications.

PD&D: What projects are you working on at the 3D Systems Packaging Research Center?

Tummala: I am working on a new concept called System-On-Package.

PD&D: What are some of the short and long terms goals for the microelectronics packaging industry?

Tummala: To create new markets that meet consumers’ needs by looking at old systems and figuring out the ways in which they are contaminated, and what ways they are not. We want to create and develop the new technologies that help fulfill the consumers needs and wants, that other companies are not able, or unable to develop themselves.